Maputo – Mozambique on Thursday sentenced a former minister to 16 years imprisonment for corruption, a striking sentence for the country that is still dealing with the fallout of a separate embezzlement scandal.
Maria Helena Taipo, 60, a member of the ruling FRELIMO party who led the Labour ministry from 2005 to 2014, was accused of embezzling 113 million meticals ($1.7 million) in government funds to build a house and to cover other personal expenses.
Eight other government officials were handed sentences ranging from 12 to 16 years in the case.
Maptuo judge Evandra Uamasse said in sentencing that, “driven by the desire for effortless gain”, the defendants breached public trust.
“The court is required to have an attitude of firmness and severity in order to discourage the repetition of this type of conduct,” Uamasse said.
Taipo’s lawyer Inacio Matsinhe said the former minister would appeal the decision.
Mozambique is yet to recover from a $2 billion corruption scandal that plunged the country into its worst economic crisis since its independence from Portugal four decades ago.
Ranked among the poorest nations in the world, Mozambique illicitly borrowed money in 2013 and 2014 from international banks to buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance vessels.
The government hid the loans from parliament but the debt came to light in 2016, prompting donors to cut off financial support.